The 50-year-old Hamilton-class 378-foot high endurance cutter USCGC Sherman (WHEC-720) has returned from her final trip under a U.S. flag last week following a 76-day patrol in the Bering Sea. She is scheduled to decommission in March.
From USCG Public Affairs:
During the three-month patrol, the crew supported the safe transit of a disabled vessel over 800 miles to Dutch Harbor, enforced fisheries regulations in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. They also provided a command and control platform capable of embarking a helicopter, thus providing search and rescue coverage to those operating in the Bering Sea.
Sherman has a storied history including being the last remaining U.S. Warship in the Coast Guard or Navy to have sunk an enemy vessel. It is also one of only two cutters to hold the Vietnam Service Award and the only cutter to hold the Combat Action Ribbon for action in the Vietnam War.
In 2001 it became the first cutter to circumnavigate the world, after conducting U.N. sanctions enforcement duty in the Persian Gulf and goodwill projects in Madagascar, South Africa and Cape Verde.
Adding to Sherman’s history, in March of 2007, a boarding team dispatched from the cutter discovered 17 metric tons of cocaine on the Panamanian-flagged freighter, Gatun. This seizure remains the largest drug bust in U.S. history with an estimated street value of $600 million. As the record holder, Sherman proudly wears the Golden Snowflake.
The crew rounded out the cutter’s storied career in the Bering Sea; conducting 16 fisheries boardings, issuing four fisheries violations and one safety violation, ensuring the integrity of the $6 billion fishing industry. As the primary search and rescue asset in the region at the time, Sherman also ensured the safe transit of the crew of the Resolve Pioneer, a Dutch Harbor-based ocean-going tug, following a severe casualty at the far end of the Aleutian chain, restricting their speed and maneuverability.
“As Sherman and her crew return home from this final patrol, it is humbling to look back on the history and the accomplishments of this crew and the previous,” said Capt. Steve Wittrock, commanding officer of Sherman. “This final patrol has been significant in that the Bering Sea mission is one of the most demanding and historically important in the Coast Guard and I am very proud of the way that the crew has performed throughout the last two challenging months.”
Sherman is one of the Coast Guard’s four remaining 378-foot high endurance cutters still in operation. The 1960s era fleet of cutters is presently being replaced by the 413-foot national security cutters, which will soon serve as the Coast Guard’s primary, long-range asset. Honolulu will serve as a homeport to two of the national security cutters, replacing Sherman and the already decommissioned Morgenthau.
So far, the State Department has passed on three of the stricken “378s” to the Philippines (USCGC Hamilton, Boutwell, Dallas), two to the Nigerian Navy (Gallatin and Chase) and two to the Bangladesh Navy (Jarvis and Rush). Morgenthau went to the Vietnam Coast Guard last year. With Sherman decommissioned, only USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717) and Midgett (WHEC-726) based in Seattle, and Munro (WHEC-724) in Kodiak remain in U.S. service and are expected to be replaced by the National Security Cutter program by 2021.
USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722), a 378-foot high endurance cutter, was commissioned in 1969 and, after nearly a half-century of service, including action in the Vietnam War, numerous major drug interdictions, law enforcement cases, and a variety of noteworthy rescues was taken out of U.S. service at Honolulu in April. Now, renamed CSB 8020, she was commissioned into the Coast Guard of Vietnam where she will continue her traditional mission under a red flag.
“This cutter provides a concrete and significant symbol of the U.S-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael J. Haycock, assistant commandant for acquisition and chief acquisition officer, in a statement. “The Coast Guard is honored to see this vessel continue to preserve global peace and prosperity as a part of the Vietnam coast guard.”
As part of Operation Market Time, Morgenthau was very active in the Vietnam War, conducting support for coastal patrol craft, naval gunfire support, and patrol duties off the coast of Vietnam in 1970-71. During her period in Market Time, she delivered 19 naval gunfire support missions on targets ashore, inspected 627 junks and sampans, and cruised 39,029 miles on patrol. In total, she fired 1,645 rounds from her main 5-inch gun, destroying 32 structures and 12 bunkers ashore.
Her crew also sank an armed North Vietnamese SL-8 trawler in a night surface action while it was trying to infiltrate the South Vietnam coastline.
Morgenthau later made Coast Guard history by being one of the first ships to have gender-integrated crews and captured a number of drug runners on the high seas. In short, she had an extensive and celebrated career.
The cutter was transferred in conjunction with an additional six smaller 45-foot patrol boats this week as tensions in the South China Sea between China and her neighbors escalate and Vietnam is now counted as a key U.S. ally in the region.
This is not the first time the U.S. has helped rebuild the navies of former enemies. Among the first ships of the new Japanese and German fleets in the 1950s in the aftermath of World War II were loaned former U.S. Navy vessels.
Moving past equipping the Vietnamese coast guard, the Southeast Asian country is looking to pick up 100~ modern fighter-bombers “to replace its antiquated fleet of 144 Mikoyan MiG-21 Fishbeds and thirty-eight Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter strike aircraft.”
While some say competitors range from the Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen NG, Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and South Korea’s F/A-50 lightweight fighter, how much do you want to bet they may get 100 gently refirb’d surplus F-16C/Ds fresh from the boneyard.
Heck, we are using the F-16A/Bs as target drones at this point.
The Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau (WHEC-722), a 378-foot high endurance cutter, will be decommissioned at Base Honolulu, Tuesday after nearly a half-century of service, including action in the Vietnam War, numerous major drug interdictions, and law enforcement cases, and a variety of noteworthy rescues.
Cutter Morgenthau, commissioned March 10, 1969, was the eighth of 12 Hamilton-class high endurance cutters built by Avondale Shipyards in New Orleans. She was the only vessel named for Henry Morgenthau Jr, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt (all of her sisters were named after T-secs as the USCG belonged to that cabinet position until 1967)
Morgenthau was very active in the Vietnam War, conducting support for coastal patrol craft, naval gunfire support, and patrol duties off the coast of Vietnam until relieved by a 311-foot cutter in 1971. During her period in Market Time, she delivered 19 NGFS fire missions on targets ashore and inspected 627 junks/sampans and cruised 38,000 miles on patrol.
In 1977, Morgenthau became the first cutter to have women permanently assigned, which paved the way for numerous women to serve aboard Coast Guard cutters nationwide.
In the fall of 1996, Morgenthau was the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to deploy to the Arabian Gulf. Participating in Operation Vigilant Sentinel, Morgenthau enforced Iraq’s compliance with United Nations sanctions. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Morgenthau participated in Operation Noble Eagle to safeguard America’s prominent port cities through closer scrutiny of maritime traffic.
Just a few months ago, she completed a 90-day 15,000-mile patrol in the Bering Sea in Winter which, besides fisheries patrol work, included the rescue of the Australian sailing vessel Rafiki and the 400-foot cargo ship BBC Colorado, picking up the Capt. Hopley Yeaton Cutter Excellence Award for 2016.
The below is from her 105-day/18,000-mile April-Aug 2014 patrol (there is a shootex at ~17:50)
“The U.S. State Department is coordinating the transfer of Morgenthau through the Foreign Assistance Act. This act allows the transfer of excess defense articles as a grant to friendly, foreign governments.”
So far, State has passed on the three of the “378s” to the Philippines (USCGC Hamilton, Boutwell, Dallas), two to the Nigerian Navy (Gallatin and Chase) and two to the Bangladesh Navy (Jarvis and Rush). With Morgenthau decommissioned, only USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717) and Midgett (WHEC-726) based in Seattle, Sherman (WHEC-720) in Honolulu, and Munro (WHEC-724) in Kodiak remain in U.S. service and are expected to be replaced by the National Security Cutter program by 2021.